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Red king crab larval survival and development are resilient to ocean acidification

Citation: W. Christopher Long, Alexandra L. Conrad, Jennifer L. Gardner, Robert J. Foy, Red king crab larval survival and development are resilient to ocean acidification, Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, Volume 577, 2024, 152028, ISSN 0022-0981,

Ocean acidification, a decrease in oceanic pH resulting from the uptake of anthropogenic CO2, can be a significant stressor for marine organisms. In this study, we reared red king crab larvae from hatching to the first crab stage in four different pH treatments: current surface ambient, diel fluctuation to mimic larval migration between the surface and mixed layer under current ambient conditions, pH 7.8, and pH 7.5. Larvae were monitored throughout development and the average length of each stage was determined. At each of the zoeal stages, the glaucothoe stage, and the first crab stage, we measured survival, morphometry, dry mass, and carbon, nitrogen, calcium, and magnesium content. Red king crab larvae were highly resilient to ocean acidification. There were no differences among treatments in survival or in average stage length. Although there were clear ontogenetic trends in size, weight, and elemental composition, most of these did not vary with pH treatment. Zoeal morphology did not vary among treatments, although glaucothoe and C1 crabs were slightly smaller in pH 7.8 than in the ambient treatment. Ambient larvae also had a slightly higher mass than pH 7.8 larvae but not pH 7.5. Ambient larvae had higher magnesium contents than pH 7.8 and pH 7.5, but calcium levels were the same. Ambient larvae also had slightly lower carbon and nitrogen content than pH 7.8 and pH 7.5 larvae but only in the 4th zoeal stage. Overall this study suggests that red king crab larvae are well adapted to a wide range of pH conditions and appear resilient to ocean acidification levels projected for the next two centuries.

This project was funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Ocean Acidification Program.

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The NOAA Ocean Acidification Program (OAP) works to prepare society to adapt to the consequences of ocean acidification and conserve marine ecosystems as acidification occurs. Learn more about the human connections and adaptation strategies from these efforts.

Adaptation approaches fostered by the OAP include:


Using models and research to understand the sensitivity of organisms and ecosystems to ocean acidification to make predictions about the future, allowing communities and industries to prepare


Using these models and predictions as tools to facilitate management strategies that will protect marine resources and communities from future changes


Developing innovative tools to help monitor ocean acidification and mitigate changing ocean chemistry locally


On the Road

Drive fuel-efficient vehicles or choose public transportation. Choose your bike or walk! Don't sit idle for more than 30 seconds. Keep your tires properly inflated.

With your Food Choices

Eat local- this helps cut down on production and transport! Reduce your meat and dairy. Compost to avoid food waste ending up in the landfill

With your Food Choices

Make energy-efficient choices for your appliances and lighting. Heat and cool efficiently! Change your air filters and program your thermostat, seal and insulate your home, and support clean energy sources

By Reducing Coastal Acidification

Reduce your use of fertilizers, Improve sewage treatment and run off, and Protect and restore coastal habitats

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You've taken the first step to learn more about ocean acidification - why not spread this knowledge to your community?

Every community has their unique culture, economy and ecology and what’s at stake from ocean acidification may be different depending on where you live.  As a community member, you can take a larger role in educating the public about ocean acidification. Creating awareness is the first step to taking action.  As communities gain traction, neighboring regions that share marine resources can build larger coalitions to address ocean acidification.  Here are some ideas to get started:

  1. Work with informal educators, such as aquarium outreach programs and local non-profits, to teach the public about ocean acidification. Visit our Education & Outreach page to find the newest tools!
  2. Participate in habitat restoration efforts to restore habitats that help mitigate the effects of coastal acidification
  3. Facilitate conversations with local businesses that might be affected by ocean acidification, building a plan for the future.
  4. Partner with local community efforts to mitigate the driver behind ocean acidification  – excess CO2 – such as community supported agriculture, bike & car shares and other public transportation options.
  5. Contact your regional Coastal Acidification Network (CAN) to learn how OA is affecting your region and more ideas about how you can get involved in your community
       More for Taking Community Action